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Social video – not the same, but not that different

By Karen Nelson-Field

Why is it when a new media platform comes along that everything we know about how advertising works and how consumers behave seems to go out the window? Because the race to discovery means that rigorous research with duplicated results are elusive. Instead, we see many one-offs, case studies, and even observations claiming ‘law’ status. But not all laws are laws; they are typically qualitative examinations of a single instance, providing little understanding or insight for managers. And this is particularly the case in the social video space.

This is not to say that marketers are gullible, but rather they are in the ‘worship’ stage of the new media adoption cycle. At this stage, marketers are still so taken by the possibilities of the new platform that they only see the positives of the channel. Of course this is not all that surprising when typically (a) only the positives of the channel are ever reported and (b) only a small sample of ‘winning’ campaigns are analysed. It’s not sexy to be sceptical of the hot new thing and no one in marketing wants to be labelled dowdy. But a result that can’t be replicated and is based on a single (often small) set of skewed data is poor research.


It is essential to consider multiple variables (both separately and collectively) associated with content diffusion including creative characteristics, branding characteristics, emotions and distribution. Data sets must vary both greatly in orientation (both commercial and non-commercial) and in the degree of viewing and sharing (high and low). Additionally, actual sharing behaviour — not claimed behaviour or sharing intent — must be considered.

How does overt branding affect sharing? What emotions are felt when overt branding is present? Which creative devices (babies and dogs) get shared the most and induce the strongest emotions? What is the role of emotions and valence in sharing? What sort of reach do brand communities’ offer to social video marketers and the implications to brand growth? What is the reality of viral success and the key to highly memorable content? What is the role of distribution in sharing and the combination of elements to best predict success?

Question everything that is known and challenge anything that isn’t evidenced with real data.

karenKaren Nelson-Field is the author of Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing from Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand. She is a Senior Research Associate with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia. Her current research focuses on whether existing empirical generalisations in advertising and buyer behavior hold in the new media context. Her research into social media marketing, content marketing and video sharing have been internationally recognised both in industry and academic forums while her (sometimes controversial) findings regularly spark global discussion amongst practitioners.

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Recent Comments

  1. […] Just to recap, in the previous post I was reflecting that context should be given the same attention in our industry as content is undoubtedly receiving (and an excellent recent post by Karen Nelson-Field asks some necessary challenging questions about the effectiveness of social video here). […]

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